Gaming phones have a niche audience, but their features are often adopted by more mainstream phones later down the line. A great example of this are displays with high refresh rates, which first showed up in 2017’s Razer Phone and the original Asus ROG phone in 2018. Now phones like the Galaxy S20, the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, Motorola Edge and Edge Plus all have high refresh rate screens.
Asus’ newest gaming phone is the third iteration of the aforementioned ROG phone, known as the ROG Phone 3. The phone takes all its hardware and cranks it up to the next level, with the aim of having the best performance of any Android phone. At the ROG 3’s heart is thethat allows it to be 10% faster than the regular 865 processor found in other premium Android phones.
After spending time with it, I found that the ROG 3 does in fact live up to its claims and is truly the most powerfulwe’ve ever tested to date. But the performance doesn’t stop there. The ROG 3 has more RAM than most people’s laptops and one of the largest batteries found on any phone today.
Asus lent us a preproduction ROG 3 with preproduction software and as such I can only give an in-depth hands-on of the phone instead of a fully rated review. In fact, the final software is due out on the same day this story publishes. Also, Asus hasn’t announced a price for the ROG 3 — which is another reason why I can’t give an official value judgement. If it has the same $900 price tag as last year’s Asus ROG Phone 2 though, I’d have no hesitation recommending it. Heck, with the 5G support, I can see this justifiably being a $1,000 phone. The Asus ROG Phone 3 will likely be available in the US this fall.
Asus ROG 3 is the most powerful Android phone
The ROG 3 leaves all other Android phones in the dust. Its combination of that 865 Plus processor, 16GB of RAM (though there is also a 12GB version) and UFS 3.1 storage makes this an absolute monster.
When I put the phone into X mode (aka performance mode), it’s not only faster than every Android phone we’ve tested this year, I can use it for long periods of time for gaming without experiencing any dip in performance.
Asus said that we could test the performance of the preproduction ROG 3. So we did. My review sample’s software build is version number 17.0822.2005.11. Below are the results of our performance tests so you can see how it stacked up against a handful of Snapdragon 865-powered flagship phones.
When I’m not gaming, all that power helps apps open up fast and animations look buttery smooth. Its 144Hz display (which I’ll get into later) along with everything else about this phone makes the rest of my world seem slow now. This kind of peppiness and speed at my fingertips is absolutely addictive and I’m not sure how I’ll go back to a “slower” phone.
The ROG 3’s buttery smooth 144Hz display
It’s near impossible to describe how “alive” a 144Hz screen looks like. Though the ROG 3 isn’t the first phone with a 144Hz screen (that honor goes to the) it’s still compelling. When I go back to my work phone with its 60Hz display, it looks so much more blurry and is almost frustrating to use.
The screen has a touch rate of 270Hz as well, which means when your finger taps or swipes on it, that the phone registers them as quickly as possible. This makes gameplay seem a lot faster and I never felt I was waiting around for a gun to fire or a jump to happen after tapping on the screen.
And if onscreen controls aren’t enough, there is the third generation of AirTriggers that lets you use the sides of the phone like shoulder buttons. You can assign on-screen controls to the AirTriggers. And you can use the AirTriggers as buttons or swipes, which made gameplay in PUBG Mobile more immersive and more like a game controller.
But the screen isn’t perfect. The quality of the ROG 3’s 6.59-inch AMOLED is good, but it can be sharper. It still has an HD resolution and I wish text appeared more crisp.
The Asus ROG Phone 3 has a gigantic battery
The ROG 3 is powered by a 6,000mAh battery. So you get the best Android performance without sacrificing on battery life.
I ran a looped video test at 50% brightness and the refresh rate set at 144Hz in Airplane mode and the ROG 3 lasted 24 hours and 3 minutes. While we have more tests to run — and I’ll update this piece when those numbers come in — that is impressive.
Obviously when gaming, the phone isn’t going to last 24 hours straight. But I had no problem making it through a 2.5-hour gaming marathon playing PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9, Alto’s Odyssey and Sdorica.
On top of that, the ROG 3 has the most extensive options for battery care and longevity that I’ve seen on any phone. There are a variety of ways to optimize the battery life, including various power and savings modes, customizable schedules for power mode and restrictions on battery charging.
Asus ROG Phone 3 is the same chunky behemoth
As impressive as the specs are on the ROG 3, perhaps the most impressive thing Asus did was to make it exactly the same size and shape as last year’s ROG 2. That means it can take advantage of all of the same numerous accessories Asus makes for ROG phones like cases and gamepads. Though Asus has new versions of most of its ROG accessories to tempt you and your wallet further.
This also means that the ROG 3 has the same chunky behemoth heft as before. It weighs over half a pound, so if you’re a small phone lover, just look away. Though I wouldn’t recommend fitting it in small jeans pockets and going about my day, the heft feels good, especially when playing games.
Despite the same size and shape, there are some differences in the bodies of the ROG 3 and ROG 2. Namely, there’s no headphone jack on the ROG 3 unless you use the included fan attachment. Also, it has a bigger camera bump. The Asus ROG Phone 3 doesn’t have an IP rating for dust or water resistance and lacks wireless charging.
As for its aesthetics, the ROG 3 is sleek and even a touch understated compared to the ROG 2. The copper heat sink sits under a transparent sliver of the Gorilla Glass 3 back, which I thought looked clever. It’s kind of like how Lamborghini’s uses a glass cover over their engines. In fact both, the ROG 3 and a Lamborghini share a similar over-the-topness when it comes to style and performance.
The ROG 3 sports 5G
While gaming is the ROG’s main focus, it is also a 5G phone and will work on US carriers that offer sub-6 5G, which includes AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. The area where I live doesn’t have 5G coverage, but I’m excited to see how the battery handles those demands.
The ROG 3’s triple rear cameras
Though the phone has the best camera array on any Asus ROG phone to date, the phone’s triple rear cameras are ultimately just decent. It’s not going to be named the best camera of 2020 or even close.
Photos from the main 64-megapixel camera look good, especially when taken with HDR. Skin is smoothed a bit more than I’d prefer and colors skew a tad magenta.
There is a night mode which actually produces some stellar shots.
The ultrawide angle camera is solid and matches the main camera more so than last year’s ROG 2. This means that the visual difference in image quality is not as noticeable between the main and ultrawide cameras.
And then there’s the macro camera, which is fun to use but feels a bit more like a gimmick because it’s not something I’d use a lot versus say a telephoto camera.
Impressively, the ROG 3 can shoot 8K video. Take a look at the video above to see 8K video straight out of the Asus ROG Phone 3. In some situations it looks good, but there is a lot of banding — especially when shooting a sky or in low-light situations.
The ROG 3’s other improvements
Compared to the ROG 2, the ROG 3 makes solid tweaks and improvements to pretty much everything. It runs Android 10 with Asus ZenUI and there’s a dark mode too.
The phone’s detachable fan, which is called the AeroActive Cooler, now has a kickstand. And just like previous ROG phones, there is a second USB-C port/accessory port on the left side for horizontal gameplay. The ROG 3 comes with a 30W charger and you get three months of Google Stadia Pro for free.
I look forward to testing the Asus ROG 3 more especially when its final software comes out.
Asus ROG Phone 3 specs vs. Motorola Edge Plus, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, OnePlus 8 Pro, LG V60 ThinQ
|Asus ROG Phone 3||Motorola Edge Plus||Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra||OnePlus 8 Pro||LG V60 ThinQ 5G|
|Display size, resolution||6.59-inch AMOLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels||6.7-inch FHD OLED||6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X||6.78-inch AMOLED; 1,440×3,168 pixels||6.8-inch OLED; 2,460×1,080 pixels|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.73 x 3.07 x 0.39 in||6.34 x 2.81 x 0.38 in||2.99 x 6.57 x 0.35 in||6.51 x 2.93 x 0.35 in||6.67 x 3.06 x 0.35 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||171 x 78 x 9.85mm||161.1 x 71.4 x 9.6 mm||76.0 x 166.9 x 8.8mm||165 x 74.4 x 8.5 mm||169.3 x 77.6 x 8.79mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||8.48 oz; 240g||7.16 oz; 203g||7.76 oz; 220g||7.02 oz; 199g||7.72 oz; 218g|
|Mobile software||Android 10||Android 10||Android 10||Android 10||Android 10|
|Camera||64-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro)||108-megapixel (standard), 8-megapixel (telephotos), 16-megapixel (macro/ultrawide-angle)||108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight camera||48-megapixel (standard), 48-megapixel (ultrawide), 8-megapixel (telephoto), 5-megapixel (‘color filter’)||64-megapixel (standard), 13-megapixel (wide-angle), time-of-flight camera|
|Front-facing camera||24-megapixel||25-megapixel||40-megapixel||16-megapixel||10-megapixel (standard)|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865||64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865|
|Storage||512GB (UFS 3.1)||256GB||128GB, 512GB||128GB, 256GB||128GB|
|RAM||12GB, 16GB||12GB||12GB, 16GB||8GB, 12GB||8GB|
|Expandable storage||No||Up to 1TB||Up to 1TB||No||2TB|
|Special features||5G enabled, 144Hz refresh rate display, 30W fast charging vis Quick Charge 4.0, AirTriggers, detachable fan with built-in headphone jack||5G enabled||5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100X zoom; water resistant (IP68)||5G enabled; Warp Charge; reverse wireless charging; water resistant (IP68); 120Hz refresh rate||5G connectivity; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging, Fast Charging 4.0|
|Price off-contract (USD)||TBD||$999 Verizon exclusive||$1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB)||$899 (8GB RAM/128GB), $999 (12GB RAM/256GB)||$800 (without Dual Screen case); $900-$950 (with)|